When those big, fat flakes start falling, it's time to pull all the warm clothes out of storage and get ready for some winter activities. But if you're not a skier, there's no need to feel left out. Bundle up and head out into the snow with five winter adventure destinations for non-skiers.
Our list covers adventurous pursuits like bobsledding and ice climbing, has a little something for animal lovers with dog sledding and snow monkeys, lets the hungry enjoy a king crab safari and tops it all off with a great way to revel in the Aurora Borealis. Most destinations are in North America, but for those of you who yearn for international travel, we've thrown in a few far-afield places as well.
Be sure to check out even more winter adventure suggestions over at ShermansTravel.
If cold weather makes you want to take a long, hot bath, consider how much you have in common with the snow monkeys of Japan. Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park is located in the Yokoyu River valley, which flows down from Shiga Kogen. It’s called “Hell’s Valley” (Jigokudani), due to its steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from underground. Snow is on the ground here for nearly one-third of the year, and the Japanese macaques that live here take advantage of the warm water to get through the winter. Watch the snow monkeys play, take a leisurely onsen (a bath in the hot springs), and pretty much ignore the human paparazzi encroaching on their winter paradise. If you do visit, resist the urge to pet or feed the monkeys; they’re not tame, and may bite if they feel threatened. Photo: Flickr/dugspr - Home for Good
Safaris aren’t just for Africa. Pack your warmest clothing and travel to Norway for a very different kind of safari – one that involves king crabs. The Arctic Adventure Resort’s King Crab Safari is a day trip from the resort on snowmobile or boat to a fjord to hunt for gigantic king crabs. Experienced divers do the fishing in the depths of the fjord and you do the eating. How could you go wrong? Resort chefs swear by the delicious accompaniment of lemon, homemade garlic dressing, white bread, and white wine with the tender crabmeat. And since you worked so hard to catch your prized crab (or at least made the trek to watch someone else do it), you owe it to yourself to see how it tastes. To top off the experience, a local king crab specialist regales you with tales of the creatures while you kick back and enjoy your meal. Photo: Arctic Adventure Resort
Fancy yourself a competitive athlete? Head to the Olympic Sports Complex at Lake Placid – home to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. The combined bobsled, luge, and skeleton track here is the only one east of the Rocky Mountains, and you can make your Olympic dreams a reality with a spin on the track. No, you won’t be alone; you’ll be in the company of a skilled driver and brakeman, but you’ll still feel the adrenaline burst of zipping along on the icy track. If that’s not enough of a thrill, combine the bobsled experience with a turn on the skeleton, with only a tiny sled between you and the hard ice. There’s no shame in thinking that all of that sounds just a little too, well, fast. If that’s the case, head to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and relive those amazing sporting moments without working up a sweat. Photo: Whiteface Lake Placid
Get vertical at the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado , considered by many to be the ice climbing capital of the United States. Once a sleepy mining town, Ouray is where ice climbers go for winter fun and challenge, as well as for the largest ice climbing festival in North America. Taking advantage of both natural ice formations in the San Juan Mountains and the city’s water overflow, the ice park was the first of its kind in the world, with more than 200 unique climbing routes up the ice walls. Admission to the park is free to the public, and a list of guides is available for those who are new to the sport. The park also has a kids' climbing area, so you can get them started early. Just be prepared to buy them their own ice ax for their next birthday if your children get hooked! To really celebrate the culture of ice climbing (and meet some of the best climbers in the world), coordinate your trip around the 18th annual Ouray Ice Festival, which takes place January 9-12, 2013. Photo: Flickr/Laurel Fan
Watch the spectacular lights of the Aurora Borealis from your own reclining, heated viewing seat that rotates 360 degrees. In Aurora Village, just outside the town of Yellowknife, a campground of glowing teepees sits under the vibrantly colored sky – the perfect backdrop for your Northern Lights vacation photos. Yellowknife is one of the best cities in the Northern Hemisphere to view the aurora, as it’s situated directly beneath the aurora oval – a halo-like ring located around the magnetic pole. Late-night snacks, hot beverages, and transportation to your hotel are included in the aurora-viewing price. Come earlier in the afternoon to add a winter excursion of dog sledding, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling before you settle in under the stars for Mother Nature’s evening show. Photo: Aurora Village/Seiji Iwaihara
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